The experience Wayne Country Day gained during its run toward back-to-back state championship game appearances is still paying dividends.
Wayne Country Day built up a 10-point halftime lead, and the battle-tested Chargers held off Trinity Academy of Raleigh for an 84-73 win in the quarterfinals of the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 2A state playoffs on Saturday afternoon.
Third-seeded Wayne Country Day advances to its third straight semifinals, and the Chargers have now won nine consecutive games.
“We played fantastic,” Wayne Country Day head coach Nathan Faulk said. “We’ve had some good days of practice.
“Trinity Academy is tough, but we’re tough too.”
Wayne Country Day led 16-15 at the end of the first quarter, and the Tigers came back to take a 32-31 lead late in the second quarter, but Jordan Cooper’s hot shooting helped the Chargers regain the lead for good.
Jordan Cooper scored 12 points and knocked down three of his six three-pointers in the second quarter as Wayne Country had a 46-36 advantage at halftime.
“We defended well, but we don’t kid ourselves, Jordan Cooper came in there and made some big shots in big moments, and you really get to see how your team responds when that happens, and I thought we responded well to that adrenaline,” Faulk said. “We fed off it, and it carried over to the defensive side of the ball.”
Early in the third quarter, Trinity Academy had trimmed the Chargers’ lead down to 48-42, but every time it looked the Tigers were going to go on a run, the Chargers responded.
Wayne Country Day led 60-53 entering the fourth quarter, but a basket from the Tigers’ Jakwon Moore cut the Chargers’ lead down to 74-70 with two minutes remaining in the game.
However, Jaden Cooper’s basket with fewer than two minutes to go pushed the lead back up to 76-70.
Trinity Academy was forced to foul, and Dre Ervin, Mike Best, and Jaden Cooper drained their free throws in the final 47 seconds to seal the win.
Jordan Cooper paced the Chargers with 24 points. Jaden Cooper contributed 20 points. Best chipped in 18 points, Carlos Raven finished the game with nine points, while Ervin and Vante Hutcherson both grabbed 11 rebounds.
“I have guys that have been to the state championship game two years in a row. I wasn’t with them, but they’ve been there two years in a row, and they want to make it three,” Faulk said. “I have so much confidence in our team, and in the moments that you have to be cool, calm, and collected, they are.
“They want to go back, and they know what it takes.”